Have you ever accidentally cut yourself while working in the kitchen? Perhaps you’ve fallen and scraped your knee. Maybe you’ve had nosebleeds in the past. Hopefully, a bit of pressure quickly controlled the bleeding. Thankfully, the human body has an incredible mechanism to stop unwanted bleeding.
Blood clotting comes in handy during times of injury on the body’s surface. But what happens when these clots form inside the body, such as in an artery or vein? These often-beneficial blood clots can suddenly turn deadly.
Over a million people are impacted by blood clots each year in the United States, and that number continues to rise. Thankfully, there are numerous actions that you can take today to lower your risk of developing a life-threatening blood clot.
Understanding blood clots
When an injury occurs and tissue is damaged, blood cells and plasma arrive on the scene to help repair the problem. Platelets stick to the edge of the injury, releasing chemicals that attract more platelets to the area. These platelets cause the blood to change from a liquid to a thicker, gel-like substance. Eventually, bleeding is halted. The medical term for this process is coagulation.
We often think of this process happening outside the body, but it also occurs inside. Damage to blood vessel walls due to inflammation, fractures, or surgery triggers coagulation. Moreover, certain medications or lifestyle factors can also cause the blood to clot more easily, such as:
- Birth control or hormone replacement therapy
- Living a sedentary lifestyle
- Remaining still for long periods, such as a long car ride or flight
Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in the body’s deep veins, namely the lower leg, thigh, pelvis, or arm.
What makes a blood clot dangerous?
Blood clots, by themselves, are not inherently dangerous. However, when the blood clot travels to other parts of the body, it becomes life-threatening. The most severe complication of a DVT occurs when a blood clot detaches and travels to the lungs, becomes lodged, and blocks blood flow. A blood clot that travels to the lungs is called a pulmonary embolism, or PE for short.
Pulmonary embolisms are almost always caused by a DVT. Once a deep vein blood clot forms, it can break off at any time and travel to the lungs. However, research shows that PEs most commonly occur in the first few days to a month after the DVT is formed.
How would I know if I had a DVT?
Not everyone experiences noticeable symptoms of a blood clot. However, the most common symptoms of a DVT may include any of the following:
- Discomfort (typically in one arm or leg) that may feel like a pulled muscle, cramp, tightness, or charley horse
- Throbbing pain in the affected area
- Redness or discoloration of the skin in the impacted area
- Swelling in the extremity
- Impacted arm or leg may feel warm to the touch
How would I know if my DVT became a PE?
A pulmonary embolism can result in a wide array of symptoms. While a small PE may not manifest symptoms, a large one can cause collapse and death. In fact, sudden death is the first symptom of PE in 25 percent of people. The most common symptoms of PE may include any of the following:
- Sudden dyspnea (shortness of breath)
- Chest pain that typically worsens with breathing
- Dizziness or fainting
- Heart symptoms such as a racing heart, palpitations, or irregular heartbeat
- Anxiety or feeling a sense of doom
7 natural strategies to prevent a DVT
A common saying in medicine reads: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Indeed, this rings true when it comes to blood clots. Preventing a blood clot is much preferred to treating it, especially considering that DVTs tend to reoccur.
There are many ways to prevent DVTs and PEs naturally, and they begin with ensuring the healthiest internal environment in your body. Follow these seven preventive measures to keep blood clots at bay.
Leading a sedentary lifestyle is one of the leading causes of DVT. In fact, a 2022 study found that watching television for more than four hours a day was associated with a 35 percent higher risk of blood clots than watching 2.5 hours or less. In addition, a study performed a decade earlier on active nurses concluded that those who sat after work had a higher rate of PEs than those who chose to exercise instead.
Sitting for long periods causes blood to pool in the lower legs, especially in the muscular calf, increasing the odds of blood clot formation. On the other hand, walking creates a natural pump that keeps blood moving.
The best exercise plan for preventing DVTs combines aerobic activity, such as walking, cycling, or swimming, with resistance moves. Additionally, stretching exercises also help to ward off blood clots.
No matter the exercise you choose, the best way to reduce the risk of DVTs is to move regularly. For example, if you work a desk job, switch to a standing desk. Small movement breaks throughout the day are essential in keeping the blood flowing normally.
Review your medicine cabinet
Certain medications and health conditions increase the risk of blood clots. For example, hormone replacement medications typically used by menopausal women significantly increase the odds of developing a clot. In addition, recent studies have found that commonly-used NSAIDs such as ibuprofen may also increase the risk of DVTs. Even certain vaccines have been linked to a higher rate of blood clots.
Unfortunately, many doctors are unaware of the side effects of some medications. Therefore, it’s essential to do your research. Evaluate all the drugs you are currently taking and determine if any increase the risk of clots. Avoid unnecessary medication whenever possible. Of course, always consult your health provider before making any changes to your medication regimen.
Drink more (quality) water
Over 90 percent of blood plasma is water. Therefore, it makes sense that hydration is an essential component of blood flow. Dehydration thickens the blood and increases the risk of blood clots.
Keep in mind, however, that most tap and bottled water is filled with heavy metals, medications, and other toxins that increase the risk of blood clots. Drink only pure water that has been filtered appropriately. To prevent DVT or PE, you may want to consider a water filtration system for your home.
Embrace the sun
Vitamin D from sunshine has long been recognized as a blood thinner in Ayurvedic medicine, and it’s finally catching on in mainstream medicine as well.
Vitamin D plays a pivotal role in hemostasis, the process that stops bleeding at the site of an injury. For example, a 2018 study found that stroke patients with low vitamin D levels had an increased risk of DVTs. Moreover, research shows that blood clots are much more common during the winter months, decreasing during the peak of summer.
The sun is your antidote to all the environmental factors contributing to blood clots. So spend as much time as safely possible exposing your bare skin to the sunshine.
Eat a vitamin-rich, organic diet
An organic diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants is essential for a robust circulatory system. Some of the best foods for preventing DVT and PE include:
- Foods high in potassium, magnesium, and vitamin K, including green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, avocados, and sweet potatoes
- Foods high in nitric oxides, such as beetroot, spinach, and kale
- Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, including salmon, mackerel, cod, sardines, and flax seeds
- Foods high in vitamin E, such as sunflower seeds, almonds, avocado, and mango
- Foods high in vitamin D, such as eggs, seafood, and mushrooms.
Since inflammation triggers the formation of DVTs, avoiding foods that cause inflammation is imperative. Avoid seed oils, sugar, gluten, and other processed foods.
Reduce exposure to toxins (including electrosmog)
When thinking of the causes of blood clots, toxin exposure is not the first thing that comes to mind. However, toxins play a huge role in the development of cardiovascular disease, including DVTs and PEs. In fact, a 2022 study found that long-term exposure to air pollution was associated with an increase in DVTs and PEs, especially among individuals younger than 70 years old.
It’s not only air pollution that impacts blood clots. Harmful chemicals lurk in drinking water, household products, cosmetics, and food. Additionally, electromagnetic radiation from WiFi, cellular phones, Bluetooth, smart devices, microwaves, and lighting undoubtedly interferes with our clotting cascade on many levels. For example, exposure to microwave radiation causes the blood to become more sticky and prone to clots.
To reduce the risk of DVTs and PEs related to toxins:
- Ensure that you are breathing the cleanest air possible.
- Avoid toxic cleaning chemicals, laundry detergents, and body care products.
- Consider the chemical load of the household items you purchase, such as bedding or furniture.
- Test your home for mold.
Together, these things lead to indoor air pollution. As indoor air pollution is more dangerous than outdoor air, consider investing in an air purification system.
Minimize your exposure to electromagnetic frequencies (EMF) by turning off your WiFi at night, limiting the number of smart devices in your home, and avoiding cell phone or cordless phone use whenever possible.
Catch enough Z’s
The human body was designed to live according to a circadian rhythm. Like our ancient ancestors, we are meant to rise and sleep according to the sun. But, unfortunately, in our fast-paced society, sleep often gets placed on the back burner.
The circadian clock plays a pivotal role in the coagulation process. For example, studies have found that sleep deprivation worsens inflammation and creates an environment that promotes blood clotting.
Getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night helps the body regulate hormones and ensures that the body has time to repair damaged blood vessels.
Bonus tips for preventing DVT while traveling by car or plane:
- When flying, get up from your seat and walk the aisle every hour or two.
- Practice calf-pump movements in your seat. 10 pumps per leg every 30 minutes. Flex and extend your foot.
- For long drives, walk around for five minutes for every two hours you are in the car.
- If you are prone to swelling/edema in your legs, consider knee-high graduated support stockings while traveling. This also helps to prevent swelling/edema after long travel that many people suffer from.
Once someone has developed a blood clot, it’s very challenging to reverse the course without medication or a surgical procedure. Unfortunately, the drugs used to treat blood clots have dangerous side effects. You can avoid this by taking natural steps to reduce the risk of DVTs and PEs.
If you or a loved one has experienced a blood clot or is at high risk for clotting, consider meeting (virtually or in person) with one of our outstanding health practitioners. Together, you will formulate an individualized health plan that reduces future risk of blood clots, allowing you to live the productive and happy life you were made to live.
Eat well, Live well, Think well
Medical Review: Dr. Lauren Lattanza 2022